Senator John Fessed Up

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It wasn’t immediately apparent from the stories yesterday, but Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) showed great faith in the Fourth Estate yesterday, admitting to being a customer of the D.C. madam as a sort of preemptive measure. The madam, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, released her business’ phone records to the press last week and uploaded the records to her website (currently down) yesterday. Apparently Vitter thought it was just a matter of time before some muckraker found him out.

Update: Actually, Hustler Magazine says it was behind Vitter’s sudden statement.

Vitter’s statement only admits obliquely that Vitter’s number was on one of Palfrey’s old lists. The AP’s New Orleans’ bureau apparently received the statement yesterday, and then spent some time trying to confirm its authenticity. “Vitter’s spokesman, Joel Digrado, confirmed the statement Monday evening in an e-mail to The Associated Press,” according to an early version of the wire story.

No one seems to know when (or how often) Vitter used the service; all his statement says is that it was “prior to his running for the U.S. Senate” in 2004. He’d been a congressman since 1999, and Palfrey’s records date back to 1996. The AP still hadn’t seen the records as of last night, since reporters were “unable to connect to Palfrey’s website.”

The records contain thousands upon thousands of numbers without names. Most of the recent records, dating from 2002 to 2006, were released to ABC News back in March; a team of researchers set to matching the numbers to names. Jeff Schneider, a spokesman for ABC News, said that they had not found Vitter’s number in those records. “With the release of a full ten years of records, it seems clear that his number came up in one of the records we did not have access to,” he told me.

As for now, the race is on for who can pile up the most vividly hypocritical quote from the family values (or as he put it, “Louisiana values”) conservative. In the running: Sen. Vitter maligning the “Hollywood left” for violating the “sanctity of marriage,” and Vitter arguing that President Clinton should step down for his extramarital affair (Vitter, by the by, replaced Rep. Bob Livingston (R-LA) after the speaker was forced to step down because of an affair). There are, you can be sure, many more. Glenn Greenwald has a rundown here.

Update: The prevailing quote of the day seems to be this one:

In 2000, Vitter was included in a Newhouse News Service story about the strain of congressional careers on families.

His wife, Wendy, was asked by the Newhouse reporter: If her husband were as unfaithful as Livingston or former President Bill Clinton, would she be as forgiving as Hillary Rodham Clinton?

“I’m a lot more like Lorena Bobbitt than Hillary,” Wendy Vitter told Newhouse News. “If he does something like that, I’m walking away with one thing, and it’s not alimony, trust me.”

“I think fear is a very good motivating factor in a marriage,” she added. “Don’t put fear down.”